Welcome to Part 22 of the Golden LP Series. In this installment we take a look at the twenty-second studio album from Ray Stevens, 1985's I Have Returned.
images. A second single release, an updated recording of "Santa Claus Is Watching You", came along in the winter months of 1985. The single came complete with a picture sleeve of Ray, dressed as Santa, peaking from behind a Christmas tree. The song would be made into a music video...it was Ray's first music video production. The song had originally been released as a single in the early '60s and was along the lines of a children's song. Ray retained the song's title and it's chorus but rewrote the verses entirely. Instead of it being a children's song it now carried a more adult flavor as Ray warns his wife to not be unfaithful since Santa's watching and knows who's being good or bad. The music video takes it a step farther by having the wife's other man turn out to be, you guessed it, Santa Claus! Ray contributed a second holiday song to the music world the same year...he wrote and performed "Greatest Little Christmas Ever Wuz" and it was included on a various artist's collection of Christmas music titled Tennessee Christmas that MCA released.
A third single release arrived in January 1986, the hilarious story of a wrestler and the unfortunate encounter Ray has with him. "The Blue Cyclone" had been around awhile, first recorded by Glenn Sutton, one of the song's writers, and it was issued as a b-side on one of his singles in early 1979, but it's Ray's recording that became the most widely known by far. Timing plays an important role in comedy, any comic will tell you that, and when you marry topical comedy with music a very different kind of timing is even more vital. 1985 had been considered the year of the wrestlers. It was the year the Wrestle Mania event was first put together and so what better way to comment on the wrestling phenomenon than with a laugh out loud, cartoonish story of a hulk of a wrestler who literally beats a person senseless not once, but twice! So, in this case, the timing played a critical role and "The Blue Cyclone" climbed it's way into the Country Top-50 in the early months of 1986. Earlier I mentioned that radio stations wanted a shorter version of "The Haircut Song"...well, "The Blue Cyclone" in it's original form ran at least 10 minutes!! It was broken into two parts on the album. Obviously this recording was way too long and so an edited copy was made for radio stations which trimmed down those 10 minutes or so into a compacted recording that ended up being a little more than 6 minutes. This was still much longer than the average country music recording but yet if you were to cut more out of the song then you'd lose even more of it's humor and so I suppose that's why it remained the way it was and it didn't get edited down further.
The edited copy left out a lot of the detailed information surrounding the build up to the encounter with the wrestler. There were additional lyrics added in to perhaps retain some of the timing of the story. The edited copy would appear in an upcoming compilation album from MCA while the full length recording would continue to be found only on I Have Returned. Other songs found on this LP include "Armchair Quarterback", "Kiss a Pig", and "Punk Country Love".
The LP hit the Country Album chart in mid October of 1985. The album climbed up the chart briskly but it didn't fly up the chart by any stretch of the imagination. The album continued to climb up the charts week after week throughout the rest of 1985 and into 1986. It would make it's way into the Top-10...it would continue to climb up the Top-10 until for one week in March of 1986 it held the #1 spot on the Country Album chart!! After it's one week stay at #1 it would remain on the charts until the fall of '86...in total it spent almost 1 full year on the Country Album chart, October 1985 through September 1986.
In the summer of 1986 Ray was selected by the readers of Music City News as Comedian of the Year. Without a doubt, Ray's decision to go ahead and market himself as a novelty singer in 1984 was paying off big time. Nobody, including critics and fans alike, could have predicted that he'd have back to back Top-5 Country Albums devoted entirely to novelty songs, with one of those albums going all the way to #1, but yet that's what happened. Sales of his albums had increased...he'd charted frequently with his albums but he was much more of a singles artist...but the move to MCA in 1984 changed all of that. It seemed as if there was more emphasis on album sales. His inventive photo shots were a visual hook on his first series of albums for MCA.
Studio album twenty-three arrived in the late summer of 1986...and we'll take a look at this comedy album in the next Golden LP Series installment. Have your swords and lances ready!!